Social trust, political trust and civic engagement
Research on social capital has often focused on interpersonal and political trust and how variation in these constructs across individual citizens and across countries is related to other aspects of social capital. Particular concern has been centred around the relationship between civic engagement and trust (Brehm and Rahn 1997) and also on the relationship between interpersonal trust and political trust (Newton 2001). In this paper we take advantage of structural equation modelling techniques that allow us to integrate both individual and country level information to explore the interrelations between social and political trust and civic engagement. We fit a series of models that begin by estimating the zero-order correlation between these constructs, qua latent variables, and then test for potential mechanisms that might explain the observed associations. Using a range of socio-demographic and personality variables, we find that the oft-cited link between trusting and civic engagement does not stand up well, while the correlation between political trust and interpersonal trust is relatively robust. We conclude by drawing out some conclusions from these results in relation to debates in social capital research.